Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Very Happy landings

Flare Path

Highbury Theatre Centre


TERENCE Rattigan was once said to be the highest paid screenwriter in the world. With an Oxford education, and as a boy at Sandroyd School in Surrey in the 1920s, it now seems ironic that the entrance path to his first school required young students to write a story that would form the basis of their acceptance.

Rattigan's work is clearly of its time and Middle class and his early style forms a part of the collective blueprint of many of the `Stay at Home ‘ British based war films.

Flare Path, written in 1942, is no exception, and although it eventually became the screenplay for the feature film The Way to the Stars, filmed in 1945, practically nothing remained from this quite complex drama of wartime married life set around a Royal Air Force station.

The action takes place in the reception area of The Falcon Hotel when the married couples of a Wellington Bomber crew gather to spend time together. The jovial atmosphere is cut short when an emergency takes the men folk away on a dangerous and secret bombing mission.

The relationship dynamic is created by the arrival of a British film star from Hollywood, Peter Kyle who has been having an affair with one of the Pilots wives.  Add to this mix a Polish pilot and his new British wife and an assortment of `stiff upper lippers' and Rattigan has a collected a unique mix of personalities to explore a range of sensitive emotional issues that were topical to a wartime audience.

At the core of the story is the transformation of Patricia the actress wife of Pilot Teddy Graham who faces the choice of her affair and career or remaining the wife of her troubled Pilot husband.


Aimee Hall takes on the role and with Jack Hobbis as her husband the two of them formed a detailed portrait of a young couple facing separation and their very different emotional problems. In contrast is Peter Kyle, a brisk and superficial character, played by Richard Cogzell, who is just a little too polite at times to be thoroughly convincing as a desperate man in love.

Next is the Polish Pilot, Count Skriczevinsky, played by James Ross struggling with his English and his Cockney wife Doris played by Susan Lynch  - an unlikely pairing but brought to life beautifully. If falls to rear gunner Dusty played by Dave Douglas, to remind everyone at what a great guy his leader Teddy is while his wife, Maudie played by Julie Waddell , seemed more concerned about her travel arrangements than the possible loss of her husband.

The cast is completed by Hayley Leavers as Elsie the young waitress, and Sandra Haynes as the landlady both with nice supporting roles. Finally the Squadron leader was played by Rob Alexander who cut a fine authentic figure in his uniform and the only one who's natural educated diction didn't feel too forced on the night.

The Director Ian Appleby has done a good job piloting this war time tale and has added to the wider renewed appreciation of Rattigan's work in recent years. The best moments come for everyone in a series of duologues that feature throughout the play. It's here where everyone is given the chance to deliver some very credible performances.

Praise also must go to the production team who built a very convincing Wartime setting for the story to unfold around and although a few planes left before the dialogue, the play overall taxied nicely to a safe departure.   To 23-03-13

Jeff Grant  

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate